Wild and wonderful
- Credit: Steve Adams
Discover The Wildebeest for a luxurious treat you’re certain to enjoy, says Judith Palmer
Smart and stylish, The Wildebeest stands out from its surroundings with a terrace and well kept topiary lit up with fairy lights. But its traditional exterior does little to hint at the marvels that await you inside this Stoke Holy Cross pub restaurant. On our arrival, we were met by staff behind a well stocked and beautifully designed bar, beyond which we could see into the kitchen, where Norfolk-born award-winning Chef Patron Daniel Smith (who is also chef at the Ingham Swan and who bought The Wildebeest with his business partner Gregory Adjemian in April) is busy working his magic. The gorgeous aromas that radiate from there hit me as soon as I walked through the door, setting my mouth watering.
Rustic tables made from large cuts of thick wood and wrought iron, along with chandeliers and Norfolk artwork make this a chic and special dining experience.
I am renowned among family and friends for being very picky with my choices at restaurants, but the menu’s descriptions made it almost impossible to not want everything! My partner Nathan chose to try the pan fried pigeon breast, with puy lentils, pancetta and red currants (£8.50) for starters, while I decided to go for the crispy pork belly with pulled pork fritter, shallot puree, charred artichokes and shallot rings (£7.95). These arrived promptly and on colourful plates; presentation is obviously set to a high standard as the dishes both looked as stunning as they tasted. My pork belly was maybe a little more fat to meat than I would have expected but tasted very tender. It was complemented beautifully by the stunning pulled pork fritter and the shallot rings and puree gave a beautiful flavour. Nathan’s pigeon - which the waitress had advised would be served pink - melted in the mouth and sat on a flavoursome bed of lentils and red currants.
Choosing a main was just as tricky but I opted for the charred 28 day dry-aged rib eye steak, with triple cooked chips, confit onion, garlic baked field mushroom and a parmesan and wild rocket salad (£22.50). Nathan ordered the duo of Essex lamb; baked lamb loin and crispy lamb breast with Tacons confit beetroot, roasted butternut squash, fondant potato and buttered broad beans(£23.50). My steak was cooked to perfection and melted in the mouth, while the mushroom and onion provided a delicious accompaniment. While he felt the bed of beans and squash had maybe a little too much oil on them for his taste, Nathan salivated over every bite of the lamb (sparing only a small bite for me to try). The portion sizes were ideal and just left room for a dessert-shaped treat.
The dessert menu was short but sweet, and I chose the double chocolate marquise with amaretto mousse, praline tuile and salted caramel ice-cream (£7.75). Nathan was persuaded by the classic vanilla crème brulee with raspberry sorbet, salt caramel macaron and pistachio snow(£7.25). Our very polite waitress offered us a short break before she brought out our desserts, during which we delighted at the glugging fish-shaped jug (Gluggle-jugs are available to buy from the bar for £25) that our water had been brought out in. When our scrumptious desserts arrived, my marquise was gently flavoured so both the praline and the amaretto didn’t overpower the sweet chocolate. The ice-cream was too salty for my taste and overwhelmed the sweet caramel but overall provided a good end to my meal. Nathan’s classic certainly won him over to the ways of sweet tooth, and the raspberry sorbet was a refreshingly sweet accompaniment. As we finished our drinks outside under the glow of the heat lamps, we reflected on what had been a delicious and beautiful dinner.
Expect to pay:
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Starters: £7.50 to £10.50
Mains: £15.95 to £23.50
Desserts: £7.25 to £7.95